Chris Sutton, 27
Jeansmith and creative director, Noble Denim
Why We Love Him: For handcrafting really attractive men’s jeans out of 100 percent responsibly sourced, all-American supply.
Chris Sutton, owner and creative director of Noble Denim, didn’t go to school for fashion or business. In fact, he studied theology. But he always liked clothes and always liked working with his hands.
“It just started as a hobby and something that I thought would be fun to get into,” he says, “and it just was a deep, dark hole that spiraled out of control.”
As a self-taught designer, Sutton figured out how to sew jeans by dismantling others. “I tore jeans apart and put them back together,” he says, “just trial and error until I figured out how to do it.”
At first he only made a couple pairs of jeans for himself. “They weren’t great but they were mine, so that was cool,” he says. Then he made a pair for his brother-in-law. “He was the first person outside of me to wear my jeans. He loved my jeans and the way they fit. So I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is fun. I feel like I might be able to play with the big boys,’ and that was kind of the spark.”
After reading about companies making small-batch jeans in the U.S., his interest peaked and he started Noble Denim.
“I think the material for our pocket fabric is more expensive than our denim, which is expensive,” Sutton says. “Most people will just cut corners there and buy some cheap-ass fabric, but we just bought really expensive, really quality organic cotton because we can.”
Noble, because of its size, can focus on building a brand identity on quality and sustainability instead of production cost. “Most companies are like, ‘How can we get the highest margin and still have quality,’ but we are trying to really shoot for quality first,” he says, adding, “I mean, what makes us different is that we are so small so we can do things kind of however we want to do them.”
What aspects do you love about your job?
I love sewing, and sewing is 100 percent of the process of this. I’ve made a countless number of jeans [and] I’m excited about each one because I know I’ve painstakingly looked at each stitch on every jean.
What are you most passionate about?
It sounds really cheesy to say living life well, but I am very passionate about the philosophy that I believe in — trying to live slowly. It’s trying to live intentionally.
If you had to pick several characteristics about yourself that you love, what would they be and why?
I just took a personality test and the thing that I was weakest on was humility, so this is easy for me. I think I’m extremely creative; I can just come up with ideas. Whether they are good or bad, that’s left to be determined. But I might be non-humble enough to believe they’re good, so I put them out there. I like that I’m focused; that if I’m excited about something, I’ll go for it. And I’d say a good grasp on culture. I feel cultured. That’s so pretentious to say that.
What do you love about Cincinnati?
I really love Cincinnati. I’m not from here; I’m from Washington state. I love that it’s a city that feels like a small town. I grew up in a town of 500 people, so this feels in some ways similar. I like that I feel like you can have a big impact as a creative. I feel like people are super positive about Cincinnati and people love the city. Some friends of mine just opened Collective Espresso downtown and day one it’s like, ‘This is the best coffee shop in Cincinnati.’ And I think that’s really cool. If it was in New York, it’d be like, ‘Oh another coffee shop, I bet it sucks.’
Do you believe in love — love at first sight or lasting love?
I’m one of those people who says they love everything. I think that love is something you have to work hard for. I love my wife, I love making jeans, but I would say the stuff that you love is maybe the most maddening stuff of all, and the stakes are high so failure is scarier.